The narrator says that about an hour and a half passed between when Claggart and Billy first entered Captain Vere's cabin and when Captain Vere informed Billy of his sentence. In this time, some rumors began to spread among the crew about what was happening. The entire crew was called to deck for an announcement.
Rumors spread quickly on the naval vessel, though it is unclear at times whether the narrator's own story is any more truthful than such rumors.
Captain Vere told the crew what had happened, and then Claggart was given a proper burial at sea. Captain Vere had no further contact with Billy after informing him of his sentence, and those guarding Billy were told to let no one speak to him, in order to minimize any resentment arising from Billy's sentence.
Captain Vere is worried that sailors' sympathy for their comrade Billy might lead to dissent and disobedience, possibly putting the ship in danger of mutiny.